Question: What do 30,000 rolls of toilet paper, 22,500 tubes of toothpaste and 7,600 bottles of hand sanitizer have in common?
Answer: These – and thousands more personal care and cleaning items – were included in more than 7,600 boxes recently assembled and distributed to Council on Aging clients (COA). More than 120 volunteers from COA, our network of service providers and members of the community contributed to the effort.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our clients have been stuck at home, afraid to venture out to shop for groceries, which includes not just food, but personal care and cleaning items. And at times, items such as toilet paper, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer were not even available to purchase because manufacturers and supply chains couldn’t keep up with demand.
Through various efforts – including its award-winning Comfort Meal program – COA has made it a priority during the pandemic to ensure vulnerable seniors in our area have access to food. But also important is the ability for seniors to keep themselves and their environments clean and safe.
Early pandemic partnerships between COA, local churches and Frame USA’s Fill the Truck charity yielded hundreds of care packages of personal care and cleaning items distributed to those who contacted COA for help. At the time however, these products were in such high demand that it became difficult to procure enough for all the older adults in our area who needed supplies.
CARES Act funding received by COA months later – along with leveled off demand for the items among the general public – made it possible for COA to source the box contents and move ahead with the project in August. After hundreds of volunteer hours and several months, the last of the boxes shipped to clients during the first week of 2021.
In addition to the toilet paper, toothpaste and hand sanitizer, each box also contained disinfectant, dish detergent, laundry detergent, paper towels, soap, facial tissues and disinfectant wipes. Receiving a box full of these items is a big deal when you have limited financial resources – and when you’re following public health guidelines to stay at home.
“These items mean the world to so many of our clients,” said COA CEO Suzanne Burke. “Sometimes they have to make the choice between these items and a meal.” The project was a major undertaking that required a large physical space at the Butler County Fairgrounds, and 84 industrial-size rolls of bubble wrap to bring to fruition.
The items in the boxes serve a practical purpose, but they’ve also provided a big psychological boost to older adults who’ve been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. They appreciate they haven’t been forgotten during this difficult time. One client, upon receiving COA’s letter alerting her the box would arrive soon, said, “You get to the age of 80 years old, and all your family’s gone, and not many friends left, it’s just good to know that somebody’s got your back, and it gives you hope, and it lifts your spirit.”